Shared commitment to improve public involvement in research

Happy diverse people together in the park.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has signed a shared commitment to improve public involvement in health and social care research.

Funders, regulators and research organisations who play an important role in the UK health and social care research have come together. They are working with members of the public to sign up to a bold new shared commitment to improve public involvement in research.

UKRI and a host of organisations across the UK have committed to bring about changes that will drive up standards in health and social care research.

They include:

A shared commitment

The statement, signed by leaders at each organisation, reads:

Public involvement is important, expected and possible in all types of health and social care research.

Together our organisations and members fund, support and regulate health and social care research. This statement is our joint commitment to improve the extent and quality of public involvement across the sector so that it is consistently excellent.

People have the right to be involved in all health and social care research. Excellent public involvement is an essential part of health and social care research and has been shown to improve (PDF, 413KB) its quality and impact. People’s lived experiences should be a key driver for health and social care research.

When we talk about public involvement, we mean all the ways in which the research community works together with people including:

  • patients
  • carers
  • advocates
  • service users
  • members of the community.

Excellent public involvement is inclusive, values all contributions, ensures people have a meaningful say in what happens and influences outcomes, as set out in the UK Standards for Public Involvement.

Working together we will support the research community to carry out excellent public involvement. We will provide or share guidance, policies, systems, and incentives. We will:

  • listen to and learn from the people and communities we involve and apply and share that learning
  • build and share the evidence of how to involve the public and the impact this has
  • support improvements in equality, diversity, and inclusion in public involvement
  • promote the UK Standards for Public Involvement.

We will embed this commitment into the decision-making processes of our organisations.

Ensuring public involvement is not left out

The shared commitment builds on earlier work, led by the HRA. In January last year the HRA produced a report, on their public involvement matching service. This was set up in response to the drastic reduction in public involvement seen in studies submitted for approval at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team wrote a report entitled public involvement in a pandemic, which highlighted four gaps that had led to public involvement being left out of health and social care research applications.

The shared commitment aims to address the gaps identified in leadership and communication.

It will bring together patients and public contributors and leaders in health and social care. This will actively set out the importance of public involvement in all health and social care research with the ambition of delivering better health and social care.

Other organisations are invited to sign up to the statement. For more information, please email public.involvement@hra.nhs.uk.

Recognising the importance of involving the public

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, UKRI Chief Executive, said:

UKRI’s vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit.

These two things are intimately connected, and our commitment to improving and expanding public involvement in health and social care research is fully aligned with our vision.

We are pleased to be able to collaborate with colleagues in other organisations that fund and support health and social care research to demonstrate how highly we value the involvement of patients and the public.

Better research results from involvement

Dr Matt Westmore, HRA Chief Executive, said:

Excellent public involvement is an essential part of excellent health and social care research. It improves research and people have a right to be involved.

This shared statement, developed with patients, research participants and leaders in health and social care research, will ensure public involvement is embedded across the health and social care research system.

For the first time the entire research system is sending the same strong message. That public involvement is always important, always expected and always possible. The evidence is that better research results from involvement, and better research delivers benefits for patients.

It also says that together we are stronger, the 13 influential leaders in health and social care research are stronger together, the public and the research community are stronger together. And together we will bring about real change.

Supporting researchers

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive, NIHR, said:

Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities is absolutely fundamental to improving research.

We’re proud to have worked with health and social care leaders and public contributors to develop this strong statement of our ongoing commitment to public involvement.

We already have a track record in this area but we are committed to supporting researchers to become more skilled and confident in partnership working and to making it more straightforward for patient and public members to work with us.

The benefits are clear, by involving patients and the public in our research from the outset, we plan and deliver studies that are relevant and important. This approach ensures that people’s perspectives and lived experiences of health and care are heard and acted upon.

Further information

Other organisations are invited to sign up to the statement. For more information, please email public.involvement@hra.nhs.uk.

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